5 Attributes of a Great Social Worker

Do you want to earn a degree in social work? If so, you’ve made a good choice. Social work is one of the fastest-growing professions in the U.S. right now – according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field is expected to grow 12% through 2024. Social work is also a great way to contribute to your community and make a real difference in other people’s lives. However, a career in social work can be demanding, and you’ll need to have a specific skill set to excel. Keep reading to learn about five of the traits every good social worker should have.

1. Empathy

If you’re considering social work as a profession, you’re probably a naturally empathetic person. Empathy is the ability to identify with other people – to put yourself in their shoes, feel their feelings, and understand what they’re going through on a personal level. Without empathy, it’s difficult to understand another person’s problems, much less help them find solutions.

2. Strong Interpersonal Skills

Social work is usually an active career that requires meeting and interacting with all kinds of people, day in and day out. To succeed, you’ll need to be pleasant and a good communicator. You’ll also need to be cooperative, persuasive, and observant about human nature. These skills will help you read between the lines of what people tell you, understand what others need (even if they aren’t sure what they need themselves), and convince the people you meet to work with you to improve their lives. You don’t necessarily need to be an extrovert – there are plenty of introverted social workers – but you do need to have a good understanding of what makes people tick and how to get along with others.

3. The Ability to Listen Well

Communication is at the core of social work, and the most important aspect of communication isn’t what you say – it’s how well you listen. Great social workers build trust and rapport with others through their strong listening skills. They know how to ask insightful questions to get people to open up about themselves, and they have a knack for making sure they understand others correctly the first time.

4. The Ability to Set Healthy Boundaries

Social work can be a draining job. Many social workers end up trying to do too much for the people they work with, or they become too emotionally invested in the people they’re trying to help. Because of this, every good social worker needs a healthy sense of self-preservation and the willingness to set strong boundaries. The best social workers know they can’t help people as effectively if they’re stressed and emotionally burned out, so they keep their work life separate from their personal life.

5. Resilience

Social work can be highly rewarding, but it isn’t always a happy job. Many social workers help people who have been through traumatic things like abuse and poverty. Spending a great deal of time talking to people about their negative life experience can be emotionally taxing, and some social workers end up with “compassion fatigue” from being overly empathetic. Great social workers tend to be naturally resilient, but they also work hard to protect themselves and their own emotions so they can keep helping others effectively.

Social work may be challenging sometimes, but it’s a rewarding career for people with the right traits. The best social workers are socially skilled individuals who know how to balance compassion with self-care. If you have these five attributes, there’s a good chance that you’ll make an excellent social worker.

Related Resource: Top 10 Best Online Social Work Degree Programs